Finding resources that explain how to program a Photoshop plugin is a extremely difficult task. Why? Just because there is little information on the web. You may ask yourself "Is that possible?"
Well, most people agree that creating an Adobe Photoshop plugin is a gold mine business due to the popularity of this software. I don’t know if that is still true, but that was true not so long ago.
Anyway, no matter the reason, information on this subject is scarce and that’s the reason why I wrote this article as a good starting point. Everybody will find something useful in this article. Those with a great idea of a ultra-cool-never-before-created plugin, but with no programming knowledge will be the most benefited of all. You will find useful resources that can save you endless hours of research. And programmers will have the chance to have an overview of different Photoshop plugins programming environments and tools.
It is my intention to keep this article up to date. Feel free to send me any corrections, updates or additions so I can consider them for publishing.
What involves programming a Photoshop Plugin?
If you are an advanced programmer, you may find this list a bit basic except, perhaps, for the commercialization part. But if you are a novice programmer, a technically advanced or curious mind, or in charge of a Photoshop plugin development project, then the following list will give you an insight of what is needed.
1 .: Graphics Programming Theory and Algorithms
One common mistake is to believe that any experienced programmer can handle the creation of a Photoshop Plugin or any other pixel based graphics application. Sure, you will need some pretty in depth programming knowledge, specially if you go with the Adobe Photoshop SDK solution (more on this later). But without a deep knowledge of computer graphics theory and algorithms, there is no possibility of success.
The amount of information available on this topic is huge and it is beyond the scope of this article to cover it in depth. The best you can do is to decide first the kind of plugin you would like to create. A color correction plugin will use quite different algorithms than a texture generation plugin.
The intention of this list is to mention just a few interesting graphics theory and algorithms resources that can be used in your Photoshop plugin development project.
2 .: Photoshop Plugin Development: Frameworks,
Information and Services.
Here we are, this is the most tasty part of this article. This section is the one you’ll be tempted to look first and skip the rest. That’s ok, but please, don’t overlook the other points. A Photoshop Plugin development project requires at least a little knowledge of all the topics mentioned in this article. No matter how technically challenged you are, you should know about programming options and some computer graphics knowledge. The same goes to programmers. A little knowledge of idea generation, marketing and commercialization is useful to start a personal business.
3 .: Plugin Distribution
Normally you don’t consider the distribution as a significant part of your plugin development business plan. And that’s ok. There are more difficult tasks to solve in the whole process and you know that eventually, some way or another, the end user will download a demo or a full copy and install it.
Anyway, there are many points to consider in this area, such as the installer itself, or a copy protection scheme. I would like to thank my personal friend Enrique Nieloud from Gertrudis Graphics for the tips he gave me on this subject. By the way, check his great natural painting application GertrudisPro.
There’s a lot to say about installers, but it is all technical stuff. There are two main ways you can go with the installer: Make the user decide where to install the plugin, or simply make the installer install the plugin where it should be. In the latter, your installer application should check for the presence of Adobe Photoshop and, even better, it should check for the presence of Adobe Photoshop plugins compatible hosts such as Paint Shop Pro or similar. In most cases, you have to create a script to tell the installer what to do.
Here’s a list of free and commercial installers you can check:
4 .: Plugin Commercialization and Marketing
You can program for fun or for business. Neither way will work if you don’t have a good idea, product exposure and a good commercialization base. There is an enormous quantity of sites covering this kind of information on the web. This list is a mere starting point on this subject.
We have outlined a four sections list that covers all you have to take into account when starting a Photoshop plugin business. Everybody will find something useful here, depending on which part of the project you are handling. I’ve tried to make this list as complete as possible and will continue updating it when new information and options become available.
Again, I encourage you to help me keep this list current. Leave a comment with your thoughts, corrections. critics (don’t flame, please) and additions.